Recently, I read an article titled “10 Church Activities That Need to Go” by Lindsey VanSparrentak, a contributing writer on Crosswalk.com. The article did have some interesting suggestions, until, that is, when it got to the tenth item that needs to go – the sermon. That’s right, on a so-called Christian website, the author of this article suggests that the sermon in the worship service needs to go. She writes that the real issue is the format of the sermons, indicating that because the attention span of people is so short these days, the sermon has to go. She goes on to offer a suggested alternative:
“You can still have your pastor up front on Sundays, but instead of just talking, he or she can lead experiences. Lectures could be replaced by an environment where people are free to talk and ask questions. You could even try sitting people at tables to better encourage discussions. These are the types of moments that create the biggest impact.”
This actually would have been a pretty funny Babylon Bee satirical post, but I actually think the author is serious. This is pragmatism at its finest. In a culture that can routinely sit through 3-hour sporting events and 2-hour movies, we need to eliminate a 30-45 minute sermon because the of the attention span of our culture.
First, I think the author needs to understand that a sermon is not a lecture. There is a distinct and very important difference between a sermon and a lecture. Pastor Sean Lucas addresses this difference in his article “The Difference Between a Lecture and a Sermon”. Speaking of a lecture, Lucas writes “A major goal in a lecture is information – in exposing the (biblical) text, I’m trying to give people as much information as possible about the text so that they will understand it. While I would naturally do application as we go along, application is not the real focus of a lecture.”
In speaking of a sermon in a worship service, Lucas writes “I feel a profound responsibility to explain and apply the text in such a way as to stir people’s affections and move them toward Christ. Whereas my major goal in lecturing is information, my major goal in preaching is transformation.”
Pastor Bryan Chapell, who taught preaching to seminary students at Covenant Theological Seminary, and wrote the influential book Christ Centered Preaching, concurs, stating “I am not simply preaching for information; I am preaching for a transformative purpose. I am preaching for transformation.”
Steven Lawson, himself an excellent and powerful preacher, writes in his article “Preach the Word” “Every season of reformation and every hour of spiritual awakening has been ushered in by a recovery of biblical preaching. This cause and effect is timeless and inseparable.” He goes on to write “A heaven-sent revival will only come when Scripture is enthroned once again in the pulpit. There must be the clarion declaration of the Bible, the kind of preaching that gives a clear explanation of a biblical text with compelling application, exhortation, and appeal.” So, no, we should not eliminate the sermon from our worship services.
The Bible speaks much about the importance of preaching, nowhere more clearly than in what is known as the “Great Commission”. Jesus said:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Through the preaching of the Gospel, we are transformed and want to observe (obey, follow, etc.) all that we have heard.
Here are five more passages from the Bible affirming the value of preaching:
- How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)
- For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1: 17-18)
- And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (Mark 3:14)
- But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (Acts 15:35)
- Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things. (Ephesians 3:7-9)
The sermon is not a church “activity” that needs to go. Instead, we need more faithful men who will “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
What other verses of scripture can you think of that affirms the value of preaching the gospel?